Below is a dramatic record of a co-op game with four heroes against the Spectral Horseman. I wrote each hero's point of view, with a final combined description of the showdown. Enjoy!
The Horseman of Shadowbrook
The Journal of Inspector Hezekiah Cooke
Arrived Shadowbrook by coach early on the evening of 17 Sept., 1800 and found accommodations in the small village. Attended a meeting of the Town Elders, including officials from the nearby port of Tidewater. Assigned by Magistrate's Court of Boston to investigate the causes and circumstances of a string of alleged murders locally.
For some reason, the Elders, including the ostentatious Hanbrooks (Lord and Lady), had commissioned two others to "assist" me in my investigation--one Doctor Harlow Morgan, a professor of engineering from the city (evidently an acquaintance of the Hanbrooks), and some ruffian named Blackwell. There is also a rumor afloat that the outlaw known variously as the Shadow or Scarlet Shadow is afoot and supposedly in the employ of the Tidewater mayor. Be that as it may, I will arrest the man on the spot if I encounter him.
I found the meeting tedious and a waste of time. Half of the officious body have their heads in the clouds, alleging the existence of some ghost or other, and invoking the protection of Providence on the town. The other half seem tightlipped, and beyond the smiles and oaths of full cooperation, I perceive duplicity at least, and perhaps complicity. We shall see.
Accompanied the Reverend Beverly Harding back to his Church on the western outskirts of the town. It is a largish, dilapidated structure much in need of repair, but the interior is well kept. In my hour-long interview with the Reverend, he pleaded with me to find and destroy the evil presence, insisting this would not be a matter of law, but of justice. In the end, I was compelled even to join him in prayer. I was not unmoved.
I awoke the next morning with someone banging on the door of my room. A clerk from Magistrate Kroft's office hurriedly informed me that in the night, the watchman of the Tidewater Lighthouse, one Izzy Masterson, had been brutally murdered. His head had been severed and thrown off the top of the structure, while his body had been found slumped over a table in the upper floor. Wild rumors attended this new development, and some in Tidewater insisted that they saw a headless horseman galloping away from the Lighthouse into the town before disappearing. I will have to make my way there and look into things myself.
Have learned that there is a convenient sheltered path from the Hanbrook grounds to the Echo Lake region, so I decided to accept Lord Hanbrook's open invitation to visit his home. Neither he nor his wife were there, but the staff put me up in a room on the main floor. I was given to understand that Professor Morgan was also there, and expected to dine with him, but when I arrived for supper, no one was there but the odd and intense butler, Pemberton, and his footmen. I sat in a kind of private parlor, and the air was stifling. I felt self-conscious and had a growing panic as the staff brought my meal. The salad seemed conspicuously wilted, and the dressing sour. The wine was tasteless, and it puzzled me that so wealthy a man as Hanbrook would allow such service. Then they brought me the main meal. Pemberton's grotesque smile and the sickening stench rising from the plate almost overwhelmed me. Because I left the grounds so quickly, I could not be certain, but it seemed to me that whatever the foul dish was that was set before me, it had once been human flesh. I fled, I must confess, in great fear.
In the morning I returned to town and learned of the treachery of the Tidewater mayor. It did not surprise me that the same man who reportedly hired the Scarlet Shadow--of such ill repute--would himself be implicated in the recent wave of criminal violence. The entire community had turned out in alarm due to the finding of the body of the poor widow who had been lynched outside of Shadowbrook. My first stop was the Church, where I concluded my interviews with the Reverend and his altar boy, learning a little of the previous night's adventures.
Next I visited the blacksmith and learned from him that the Lord Hanbrook is indeed, as we had hoped, a great man with inner strength and loyalty to the town.
I visited the Magistrate's Office and inquired concerning the facts surrounding the death of the widow Jessica. It seems inescapable that her death was the result of her indiscreet protestations against the absent Mayor of Tidewater, but whether this all has something to do with the legendary horseman or not I have yet to determine.
I returned to the blacksmith's shop to purchase a weapon, and I was surprised to find myself greeted by a crowd of grateful citizens shouting my praises and offering me fruit. They seemed to find renewed hope just from the fact of my presence, and it warmed my heart that these law-abiding commoners would be capable of such effusive support. I'm used to hostile indifference or outright savagery from such folk. I purchased tools of science and a book on town history, intending to rely on my cunning rather than on firepower.
Early in the morning, I was accosted by the hunter, Mr. Blackwell. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't think much of the man at first. He seemed gruff and naive to me, and since his arrival in this town, I would estimate that he has not gotten much sleep from the look of him. Yet, when he greeted me, he handed over a tome he had found in the wreckage of a caravan deep in the Olde Woods. This book will be of great use to me, and I believe I have underestimated the man. We shook hands warmly, and I opened my mind to him concerning all that I had learned about the horseman.
Later, around noon, I made off to have a look at the old Windmill to the northeast of town. Poking around inside the ancient but still functioning structure, I found a rusty key. I intend to journey west from here through the fields to the Hanbrook Manor.
In the morning a courier arrived from Lord Hanbrook concerning alarming developments last evening. It seems that the Reverend Harding came forward around 9:00 last night with accusations against both Magistrate Kroft and Dr. Manning. He showed Lord Hanbrook documents relating to the first of the most recent murders--that of the farmer Charles Hedges. Harding pointed to claims from Kroft that the magistrate had been informed of the murder by his clerk, who in turn heard it from a farm hand who had run into town following the vicious attack that left Hedges' dismembered body hanging in an oak tree. The problem is that according to Kroft's journal and an eyewitness, he arrived at the murder scene a full ten minutes before the courier had reached Shadowbrook...and so could not have learned about it from his clerk. In the heated meeting last night, Kroft tried to amend his official report and claim that he must have intercepted the farm hand en route to town, but the boy was forthwith produced and denied any such meeting. Kroft at one point in the meeting threatened violence toward the reverend, but Lord Hanbrook restrained him, and he stormed out of Town Hall. Later that night it was discovered that both he and Dr. Manning had fled.
This latest turn of events fills me with dread and loathing for the evil town leaders--one a law enforcement officer!--who have sold their very souls to the devil.
My intention was to proceed directly to the Hanbrook Manor through the fields, but from a distance I could see a troop of ghostly soldiers blocking my way. I do not feel spiritually strong enough to face these apparitions, so I headed back to town and went to consult with Reverend Harding. I learned more information about his theories concerning the horseman and the culpability of Kroft and Manning. Still, I left feel afraid in my spirit that I was not up to the task.
That night I lay awake until sometime after midnight. I then passed into a fitful sleep in which I had a growing sense of panic. I cannot remember clearly, and I have vague memories of the dream in which all the imagery now, in the full light of the morning, seems nonsensical. But in the night it seemed to make sense to me, and I became convinced that someone had taken something of urgent value and importance to me. I remember a feeling of riding a fast horse through the night, and it was both thrilling and terrifying. In my dream, I saw a masked bandit running from me with his prize in his hand. My mind's eye saw the scene backwards, as it were, and I could see myself galloping after the man, coming on quickly. The figure I saw on the horse was me, but I wore a shapeless hood so that I could not see my expression. I caught the bandit and began to thrash him, demanding that he give up his stolen treasure.
Then suddenly a horrifying, burning stabbing into my gut awoke me, and I found I was in a strange room. The masked man was there, and he was screaming at me and waving his now dripping dagger. I was terrified and grievously wounded. I turned and ran and soon found I was not in Shadowbrook anymore. Somehow I had made the journey to Tidewater in the night. I bound my wound as best I could and rented a mare to take me back slowly to my room in Shadowbrook. What madness is this that drove me to this dark adventure?
I awoke in pain and fever late the next morning and decided to head to the Hanbrook Manor, with the vague intention of heading to Echo Lake and eventually back to Tidewater to seek out the man I had attacked in the night. I have little doubt as to his identity. It was that infamous rogue the Scarlet Shadow. I need to know what his connection is to my fit of madness. Is he in league with the mysterious horseman, or is the so-called Headless Horseman trying to sow discord among us for his own devilish purposes? I reached the Manor and was relieved to see the Lord and Lady were home, as I did not want to place myself in the hands of their butler, Pemberton. I shared with Lord Hanbrook all that had transpired, and he assigned me my own personal servant to keep care of me. I walked the grounds with him and took note of the hoof prints that remained from the attack on the Lady's bedchambers several days ago. That night as I lay sleeping, the dreams of madness again threatened to engulf me, but my servant woke me, and as I sat up, I realized that these dreams were no random occurrence, nor the product of my fever. I perceived clearly that the ghostly presence of the horseman was behind it all, and I lay back down satisfied that I was beginning to apprehend the truth behind all these mysteries.
When I descended to breakfast the next morning, I found we had a new guest: Sophie the town midwife had arrived. Her manner was most distressed; she was all in tears one moment and then full of righteous fury the next. She and Lord Hanbrook were in consultation at the table when I entered the room, and they took me into their confidence. After dismissing Pemberton and closing the door, the Lord instructed Sophie to tell me her tale. It seems that in the night she followed the Tidewater harbormaster, one Josiah Ellsworth, as he wandered toward the Manor. She hid behind bushes and watched him as he performed some hellish ritual within sight of the mansion. According to Sophie, several minutes passed, but she noticed a cold mist slowly enveloping Ellsworth, and she watched in horror as he raised his arms in a silent petition to whatever he was praying to. In a moment the swirling mist resolved into the gigantic figure of a headless horseman on a black mare. Sophie watched as the two whispered to each other. After what seemed an eternity, the horseman's figure blackened and faded so that she could not distinguish it from the night. Before long, she realized that Ellsworth was again alone. She waited until he retreated back toward town, and then, as the sky began to lighten, she ran to the Manor, pleading to be let in.
So the battle lines are drawn. Of the duplicitous town elders, it is clear that Ellsworth, Mayor Carver, Magistrate Kroft, and Dr. Manning are in league with the horseman. Sophie, Lord and Lady Hanbrook, and Reverend Harding are the only remaining true hearts. I feel we are moving toward a showdown with the forces of evil, and I'm glad we have at least some trustworthy confederates. Sophie asked if she could accompany me, and I assented, glad for her spiritual strength.
As I turned to leave breakfast, Lord Hanbrook stopped me.
"Inspector, wait!" he cried.
"What is it?" I demanded.
"Your neck, sir. Look!"
He produced a hand mirror, and I glared in horror. A mysterious and unmistakable mark was on my neck, just above the collarbone. It had the appearance of an evil eye. At first I thought it some bad joke--an inking of some sort, but nothing would remove it, though I scrubbed hard at it until I bled.
I have been marked by the devil himself!
In the morning Sophie joined me for a quick breakfast, and she showed me a note she had received from a local fisherman. It was signed simply "The Shadow"--a reference, apparently, to the outlaw that is somewhere in Tidewater. In the note he pleaded with Sophie to refrain from spreading any rumors that might be harmful to Lord Hanbrook or Reverend Harding. Instead, he urged that all parties now unite against the ghostly horseman. This gives me pause, because the words seem sincere, despite this character's shady connection with the traitorous Mayor Carver. I anticipate a meeting with this Shadow in the near future.
Sophie and I traveled along the secret path to the Monastery. We arrived in the afternoon, and I was shown to a small room, where I was invited to refresh myself in preparation for supper. About an hour later, a knock came on my door, and when I answered, a hooded figure pushed into the room. I assumed it was a monk arrived to escort me to the dining area, but as he turned, he pushed back his hood and revealed a hideous, scowling face marked with an 'X' on the forehead. He flew at me with a dagger, but I pulled a table in front of him, causing him to stumble, whereupon I fell on him and clubbed him into silence. The abbot arrived moments after and directed the monks to take the unconscious figure to the dungeons. He confided in me that my assailant was not of his order, but was a monstrous and shadowy person long rumored to be hiding in the depths of the monastery...known as The Host--apparently a reference to the demons thought to be residing within his flesh.
I decided to fast instead of eating supper, and the abbot escorted me to the chapel, where I knelt and swore an oath of devotion to the destruction of the evil that has so long infested this community. The abbot rewarded me with a vial of holy water, and I retired for the evening.
The next day I spent resting and recovering my strength. In the evening I sat in the chapel and prayed when suddenly the man known as the Scarlet Shadow entered. We had a long and soul-searching interview, and in the end I agreed to temporarily put off arresting him while we attended to the horseman. He gave me a seafarer's lantern, and I offered him my vial of holy water.
Having dispensed with that lingering matter, I purposed to investigate the so-called Forgotten Isle in the middle of Echo Lake. The abbot had told me of his suspicions that the ghostly horseman worked evil in that haunted place, so Sophie and I took a boat thither to investigate. We found the area guarded by a band of apparitions, and we fought a long, hard battle against them, finally defeating them and banishing the foul spirits from this world. I will admit that I relied on Sophie's spiritual strength, but as she lay exhausted from the fight, I took over and put my skills to good use, finding abundant evidence that the horseman was indeed in this place. I found an old weathered skull that might well be one of the villain's victims.
As we struggled back to the shore, word arrived that the Scarlet Shadow had found the horseman’s lair, and he urgently requested that we make our way quickly to the Hanbrook Manor. Sophie and I, weary as we were, set off immediately.
The Journal of Harlow Morgan
The meeting with the Elders was convened at long last, now that the police inspector from Boston has arrived. He struck me as a self-important prig with little imagination, but he seemed to command the respect of Lord Hanbrook. I sensed some friction betwixt the inspector (Cook? Crook? Something.) and the town's Magistrate.
I followed the Reverend and the inspector back to the Church and meditated in a pew by myself as they retreated into the rectory. I am a man of science, but it would be foolishness to deny that the deaths occurring here of late seem other-worldly at the very least. I soon found myself repeating the Lord's Prayer despite myself, and I will admit I was comforted.
The next morning I heard the town cryer wailing about the death of one Izzy Masterson at the Tidewater Lighthouse. This did not bode well for our mission. I decided to head to the Hanbrook Manor to consult with His Lordship, but neither he nor the Lady were about. I stayed the night and after supper found myself in a conversation with Delani, one of the servant girls. She is a negress, and a deeply spiritual, if excitable, young woman. She insisted to me that there is an evil spirit behind the murders, and that the Elders know more than they let on. Indeed, she even harbored suspicions concerning the head of the household staff, Mr. James Pemberton. The next morning, I pressed Pemberton to allow the girl to accompany me as my personal servant, and he reluctantly agreed. The girl herself seemed much relieved to be out of the house, though I could not comprehend why.
I received a message by courier that the Mrs. Jessica Harms, a widow from Tidewater, urgently needed to see me. By the time I reached Shadowbrook, the news had broken that Jessica had exposed Mayor Carver as in league with the murderer. Jessica had claimed that a devilish, spectral horseman from beyond the grave had been taking his ancient revenge against the people of the community, and that Carver was one of the villain's allies. Carver has since gone missing. Then came the very disturbing news that Mrs. Harms herself was found hanged on an oak tree just outside of Shadowbrook.
With these startling revelations, the entire community has come out ready to say in public what has only been whispered in darkness so far. There is indeed a ghostly horseman. According to witnesses he lacks a head but commands an army of spectral soldiers determined to destroy the living in this community. The origin and purpose of this horseman varies from tale to tale, but most agree that he is the spirit of an aggrieved Patriot from the War--one who had been betrayed by the Elders of Tidewater to the Tories and later beheaded.
I hurried along a secret path to the Echo Lake Monastery, where I was politely received by the monks and shown to a private room for the evening. I gained grudging permission from the abbot to inspect the Library of Latador within the deeper corridors of the Monastery, and therein I found a book of rituals. As I tried to decipher the wild, witchy writings, the pages began to dissolve in my fingers. I replaced the now hollow shell of a book and felt spiritually strengthened. Before retiring for the evening, I dashed off a note to Lord Hanbrook, encouraging him to maintain his resolve. The next morning I purchased a vial of Holy Water and a Scroll of Knowledge that detailed an amazing set of rules of logic from an unknown medieval monk. I was fascinated by the insights of the long dead scholar and felt I could use his rules to improve my own considerable cunning.
I would have the chance to test the ancient theories as I journeyed to the north dock on Echo Lake. There I found a group of fishermen and other louts who were full of theories concerning the mysterious horseman of Shadowbrook. I learned that the tale of the ghost dated back to the Revolution, and that in '76, Shadowbrook and Tidewater had tried to remain Tory in their sympathies.
I need a weapon, but I also would like to get my hands on the Sacred Chalice at the Monastery, because it is rumored to have great spiritual powers, and I perceive that we will soon have recourse to the supernatural realm. The damnable abbot overestimates his own importance and so far will not be prevailed upon to give up the relic. I will have to bring to him proof that this evil is beyond him. To that end, I traveled by boat to the South Dock, where I engaged a traveling merchant in a long and fruitful dialogue. He is one Brisbane--I never learned his given name--a dealer in hardware from Boston, and he knows far more than his patrons suspect. He confided in me that the midwife Sophie Smith is filled to the brim with gossip implicating one or the other of the town elders, and Brisbane also suspects that she has some understanding with the mysterious cult known as the Order of the Crimson Hand. What their connection may be to this horseman remains to be seen. Armed with this knowledge, I have a mind to return to the Monastery and have my long-delayed interview with the abbot.
Word reached me early the next day that during the night, the Hanbrook Manor was violated by some violent visitor. The Lady Hanbrook's own chambers were the site of the invasion, but she thankfully escaped any harm. Immediately rumors sprung up among the ignorant people of these environs that the Lady was not harmed because she was an ally of the mysterious attacker. Others suggested rudely that the intruder was one of her lovers and that she feigned the cry for help when he was discovered by a watchman. I attribute absolutely no truth to any of this and remain thankful that my great patron's family is for the moment secure.
Later that fateful morning, I departed the South Dock intent on retracing my steps back to the Monastery in an attempt to secure the Chalice. News of my journey must have preceded me, for I found a delegation of monks waiting for me at the gate. They coaxed me into a discussion, but as the surly group surrounded me, I had a late premonition that something was amiss. I was forthwith set upon, bound, and gagged, whereupon the gang dragged me into the Monastery. The abbot was there, and as he looked on with disinterest, his lieutenant announced that I had been implicated as a witch in league with the ghostly horseman, and that a trial by torment was to commence immediately. I will not write of the agony of the ensuing hours, but suffice it to say that I had passed out by the time that Lord Hanbrook's posse arrived, evidently alerted to my fate by some worthy monks. I'm told that after a brief scuffle that left a few of the abbot's ruffians unconscious, I was rushed back to Shadowbrook and attended to by Doctor Manning.
I am furious, and despite His Lordship's stern warnings, I am determined to return to the Monastery.
I wanted to head immediately for the Hanbrook Manor, but a series of unwanted and unwarrantable interviews--first with the doctor, then with the clerk, and finally with the mayor's wife!--delayed me. By the time I was ready to set out, it was evening, so I gave up my plan until tomorrow and instead bought a sturdy musket at the blacksmith's shop. The one-eyed hunter was there, and we spoke briefly.
I'm heading to the old Windmill. I found a serviceable hunting rifle and took it with me. As it happens, I am not a bad shot, and with a rifle, I may be able to get off a shot long before any enemy closes to deadly range.
I made my way westward into the fields adjacent to the old Amberson farm, having heard from the locals that a band of ghostly soldiers was haunting the area. I found them--or rather they found me--as I entered the overgrown plantation. They came at me bellowing eery curses in a language I did not know, and I leveled my rifle as they advanced. My shots rang out as Delani whispered desperate prayers, and I somehow felled several of them. Others began to dissipate, but one, the leader, came on. As he closed with deadly intent, I reached for my vial of holy water and doused the apparition. To him it must have seemed like acid, for he screamed in pain before vanishing. I knelt in thanksgiving with Delani, grateful for what I counted as a clear victory against the horseman's minions.
Later that evening, word reached me that an order from the treacherous Mayor Carver had reached the citizens of Tidewater, instructing them to turn in all weapons to his deputies at the barracks. Despite his absence and the allegations of his faithlessness, many of the citizens seemed inclined to obey. I sent word to the town immediately, demanding that the order be ignored. I will not permit this devil's evil to further infect the town and make its citizens helpless before the villain hunting them!
I journeyed back to Shadowbrook and met with Master Argot Blackwell, with whom I engaged in some old fashioned horse-trading. He gave me some handy tools of science he had found, and I entrusted my sturdy musket to him. It seemed to me he would make better use of it than I. Before I bedded down for the night, a frightened farmer raced into town with word that more ghostly soldiers had been seen in the fields, the scene of my late victory. It fills me with foreboding that the enemy is preparing a great assault on the innocent people of this town.
Then came word that the outlaw known as the Scarlet Shadow had arrived at the Hanbrook Manor and was urgently calling for help. Reportedly he has tracked the horseman to the mansion grounds. Blackwell was for galloping there immediately, but I have one task to perform before our final showdown with the fiend. Unless I miss my guess, the villain does not suspect what I have planned.
The Diary of Jonathan Argot Blackwell
After an interminable meeting at Town Hall, during which the policeman from Boston questioned everyone as if he expected one of us to confess to the murders, I quit the crowd and made my way to the Hanbrook Mansion, to which I had been invited for supper. After a leisurely meal of cherry duck, some delightful corn soup, and ample wine from the well-stocked cellars, I retired to my apartment on the upper floor.
The next part of this story will sound fantastic, and perhaps it is. I myself am not yet convinced of its veracity, nor am I certain that I have yet truly awakened from this nightmare. In the night--I don't know what hour, but it was still dark and the moon had set--I was wakened by a musical sound in my room. There was a flickering light coming from my closet, so I rose and grabbed my pistols. When I opened the door, I saw a swirling, greenish light suspended in the air and knew intuitively that I was being beckoned inward. Despite a feeling of nausea and dizziness, I stepped into the void...
After some passage of time, I awoke on the water, clinging to wreckage near the site of the sunken vessel that still lies off of Tidewater. I have no idea how I found myself there.
I spent the day finding my way back to the part of the sunken hulk that lay above the water and took stock of my provisions. As the sun was beginning to set, I determined that I would stay and use the remaining light to investigate the wreckage. But in the dim light I saw what at first I thought was a mist coming across the water. As it neared I began to see human forms, glowing as if ethereal. Before I could shake myself into action, they were upon me and wounded me before I escaped on a log raft I had found. I rowed into the icy waters south of the shipwreck.
I eventually made it back to shore in a fog so dense I rammed the raft into a dock and pitched into the water. Climbing out onto the shore, I found I was along the docks in Tidewater, and the town was all abuzz concerning the recent development--to wit, the Mayor had gone missing and was alleged to be in league with the ghostly horseman said to be behind the recent murders. In the mysterious fog, I could do no more and hoped only to find a place to eat and rest.
In the night I lay on my hired bed and passed uncomfortably into a troubled dream. In the nightmare I was running through the woods after a posse that had something I felt I had to retrieve at the cost of my life. It seemed to me that in the space of a few hours of restless repose I had lived many tortured years seeking these men who had stolen from me my most valuable possession. As to what it was that these dreamworld men had taken from me, I felt I almost remembered it from moment to moment, but the words eluded me, increasing my frustration. As I chased them they shouted curses at me and occasionally ventured to fire a shot in my direction, but I kept coming on. At last I caught up with them and attacked, emptying my pistols. But the sound of the shot wakened me, and I found that it was not a dream, but a reality--or at least it felt that way. The posse had perhaps run off, but one masked man remained, and I fired at him, still believing him to have that thing I must possess. I'm pretty certain I hit him in the legs, but he came at me and plunged his dagger into my stomach. Now fully awake and grievously wounded, I batted him away and limped from the campfire into the night. How I had come into this wood from my room at the inn I did not know. Was it all a dream or some bout of madness? I couldn't say, but the hot blood dripping from my belly was real enough. I must have swooned at some point, and I have a fevered memory of some farm family dragging me in the early morning hours. I awoke back in Shadowbrook, my wounds dressed, but I was still dazed and scarcely able to move. What is happening to me? What of the masked man? Was he the horseman everyone is talking about?
As I was convalescing that evening in the home of a sympathetic tailor, a powerful storm slammed the area. Next I heard screams and ran into the pelting rain to see an unnaturally large black horse rearing in the town square. More frightening still, its rider was headless and wielding an axe. I pulled my pistol, but the rain spoiled the flintlock, and I drew my sword. The ghostly figure swiped at me with his axe, wounding me, but I beat at it with my blade, scoring at least one hit before it galloped off. Since this rider had neither mask nor a head to wear it on, I concluded I must have encountered in real life that dreaded horseman, lately the cause of so much murder and mayhem.
With my strength slowly returning, I wanted to get out of town and back on the hunt. I'd heard dark rumors about the black forest south of town and decided to head thither. My journey through the woods brought me to a wrecked caravan that betrayed no sign of life. The woods all around it were burned. There were no bodies but many hoof-prints, though curiously none within the burned perimeter. I searched the wreckage and found common items mostly untouched--foodstuffs, a map, a Bible...and a book that seemed to contain spells of witchcraft. I took it with me, intending to hand it over to the inspector if I ever saw him again.
I rode out of the woods to the path to the east and then circled back toward Shadowbrook, reaching the covered bridge by nightfall. In the night I felt that the darkness was deeper than it should be, almost palpable in its malevolence. In the morning came word that the harbormaster of Tidewater had reinstated an ancient tax on water travel and that henceforth, any use of boats would cost two shillings. This seemed to me to be an outrage--entirely unnecessary and coming at a most inconvenient time when the community is so threatened. Once again rumors emerged that the mysterious Order of the Crimson Hand was behind this sudden turn of events.
At daybreak I hiked into town and tracked down Inspector Cooke. His manner was demeaning as usual, but he softened when I handed him the witchcraft book. He seemed genuinely pleased and shook my hand sincerely. We spent the morning talking over events and deciding our next move.
I headed to the doctor's office but found it vacant. Given the horrendous news from last night concerning the stormy meeting among the elders, this does not surprise me. But my wound remains, and it is not getting better.
I journeyed to the abandoned fort outside of town and found an old luggage that was molding away. Inside, however, I found a collection of scientifick tools that I thought might interest the professor.
I am not prepared to face the spirit soldiers that reportedly haunt the marsh to the east, so I journeyed back to town. Worried that my wound might fester, I paid to have the absent Dr. Manning's nurse clean and bind it. When she was done with me, I pushed into the doctor's office over her protests and found a bizarre idol fashioned from straw and wood sitting on Manning's windowsill--evidence of his twisted and depraved loyalties.
I feel that a final confrontation with the villain of this town is imminent, so I travelled to the Church to seek out Providence on my knees. It was long overdue, and I felt somewhat strengthened. Later that evening, Harlow Morgan encountered me, and I handed him the tools I had found in exchange for a nice musket.
Later than night we got word that the Scarlet Shadow had found the horseman’s lair—at the Hanbrook Manor! I gathered my weapons and prepared to set off at once, but Harlow Morgan insisted that he had to retrieve something first. When I found out what he had done, I was aghast. But maybe it will give us the edge over the villain after all.
The Journal of The Scarlet Shadow
With Mayor Carver's generous downpayment in my bag, I departed Tidewater in the night and made my way to the docks, where I procured a dingy and set out to investigate the odd glowing waters of the bay. I felt, rather than saw, a presence even as my boat rose and fell on the waves. I had the sense that an emissary from the spirit-world was watching the town from the safety of the seas, but watching for what I could not say. It did not feel malign to me, but rather it seemed to be a goodly spirit that was peering anxiously at something evil that was plaguing the town.
After a night on the water, I heard a great cry from the town and learned from a fisherman that the Lighthouse keeper had been murdered in the night. The old codger insisted that a ghostly horseman was seen galloping through the town afterward, and after my experience of the previous evening, I half believed it. I reached the Lighthouse by boat and raced to the top to see the grisly scene for myself. One of the younger men from town, Hans Bicker, was tending to the light, and on the hour he blew the fog horn out over the misty waters. An unsettling roar returned--not an echo, not a ship's signal. Bicker and I looked at each other, but said nothing. I begin to sense that what we are fighting here is not of this world. I was not too surprised to find deep hoof marks at the base of the tower, leading toward the town. I decided I might have to brave the local police and venture thither.
I journeyed into town through back roads and made my way to Town Square. It was early morning when suddenly a pack of brigands (or bounty hunters, I don't know which) set upon me. I pummeled two of them and the rest ran off. I had ducked their staves and knives and so survived unscathed. I eluded the two constables that came to investigate and sneaked into the town store just as it opened. I purchased a dueling pistol and prepared to make my escape.
That evening I made camp on the outskirts of town and settled down to a much needed slumber. Accustomed to the tread of the lawman, I jolted awake when I heard someone approach. Before I could grab my weapons he was upon me. A one-eyed maniac screaming "Treason's fruits! Ah! The years of ferment!" He shot me in the leg, and I flew at him with my knife, wounding him gravely. He fled into the night wailing and leaving a blood trail behind him, but I was too injured to follow. I examined the wound by firelight and passed an anxious night awake and lying on my musket.
I decided to make for my secret camp near the abandoned fort outside of Shadowbrook. I moved there quickly despite my wounds, but when I arrived I had scarcely lit my fire when I looked up and saw a troop of ghost soldiers standing at the edge of my camp. Desperate, I invoked an old ritual of protection I had learned from a gypsy years ago, and it seemed to make them pause. I fought them tooth and nail, and as each apparition succumbed to my blows it vanished. I destroyed them all, but as the last one faded, I fell to the ground unconscious from my wounds.
When I awoke the next morning, I bound my wounds and made off to get as far from the site of this latest attack. I took a secret path to Smugglers' Cove and spent the day wandering through a network of caves. It was a worthwhile venture, for I happened upon what I can only conclude was a treasure belonging to the horseman. As much gold as I could carry was soon in my sack, and I reluctantly decided I would soon have to return to town and try to buy more provisions, because I sensed that soon I would be facing the evil haunting these environs.
I considered heading into Tidewater, but in the end I elected to investigate the shipwreck that was so near to shore. There were reports of ghost soldiers near the barracks in town, and although I did not fear facing them, I knew that even if I were successful against them, I would be drawing the unwanted attentions of the authorities. Instead, I rowed out to the ruined hulk, and as the sun waned, the tattered sails rippled, casting eery shadows that seemed for a moment to have life in themselves. Once again I had the unmistakable impression that a great contest in the invisible world around us was about to take place, and the center of it all was the headless foe we face.
I rowed out into the icy waters off of Tidewater and found that I had renewed strength of courage. I felt that although an unspeakable horror and its army was arrayed against us, the four hunters would in the end prevail. How I would win the trust of the other three I had no idea. In the afternoon sun, I munched on some cold mutton, gazing at the town in the distance and contemplating where and when I would make to the shore.
The next morning I spoke with the early fishermen and learned of yet more scandals involving the town elders of this cursed place. It has been confirmed that Doctor Manning, the seemingly mild mannered physician, has a long history of collaboration with the headless horseman. Likewise the Magistrate--one Karl Kroft--has been implicated as one of the horseman's executioners involved in at least two murders. Apparently all the elders had it out at a dramatic town meeting last night. Lord Hanbrook and Reverend Harding seem to be true to the cause, and everyone is praising the reverend for his stunning revelations concerning Kroft and Manning. It seems Harding has out-thought nearly everyone, including the horseman. There was also new reports that ghostly soldiers have appeared on the outskirts of Shadowbrook, perhaps in some devilish scheme to besiege the town.
I rowed to the beach south of town and sneaked into Town Square, avoiding the prying eyes of the constables. That afternoon as I tried to have a meal in a private room, I was visited by a delegation of locals who had observed my entry into town. Far from being in cahoots with the lawmen, as I at first suspected, they were concerned citizens, fearful of the evil that was victimizing them. They besought my aid and gave me supplies and information. One of them was a sergeant from the local militia, and I directed him to send a platoon to the Lighthouse. I then purchased an old map and a seafarer's lantern, which I intend to give to the police investigator, if he doesn't arrest me first.
My meeting with the famed inspector came sooner than I had expected. I'd heard he was still in Shadowbrook and so did not anticipate seeing him until I journeyed there. But tonight as I woke suddenly from my slumber, I found Cooke standing over me with a hellish expression on his face. He looked afraid and enraged all at once. He struck me hard with his fists and began screaming, "Give it to me, you wretch!" I stuck a dagger into him, and he yelped in pain, seeming all at once to come to his senses. I got the impression that he didn't know where he was, and he fled into the night. It seems the enemy has a power over my companions to possess their minds in their sleep, all with the aim of killing me. I bolted the door and tried to sleep.
I decided to head back toward Shadowbrook and seek out the others. I'm half afraid to encounter the inspector again, but I feel driven to. He must be made to understand--and that hunter, too--that it is the hand of Hell's Horseman that is driving us to attack one another. The ghostly soldiers that are reported in the barracks and the docks prevent me from taking a northerly route, so I travel slowly by foot out of town to the south.
As I pondered events, I have become convinced that the Hanbrook Manor is at the center of all these mysteries. Unless I miss my guess, the horseman is in hiding there. I intend to share my suspicions with the others.
I reached the area of Echo Lake and decided to head to the Monastery, from which there is a secret path to the Manor. Darkness fell as I reached the North Dock, where evidence of the horseman's recent visit was manifest. I hastily scrawled a note and entrusted it to a stout fisherman who was headed back to Shadowbrook. I instructed him to put it into the hands of Sophie, the midwife. In the letter I appealed to her to set aside the threats she had voiced about revealing the gossip she'd collected against the town elders. I perceive that if we are to have any chance at prevailing against the evil we face that we would need unity even above weapons.
I reached the Monastery late in the day, and after securing a closet for the night, I wandered the grounds of this ancient and magnificent settlement. I'd heard from one of the monks that the inspector is residing here tonight also, so I decided to get a feel for the layout of the place before I confronted him. In the darkness as I strode through a copse I spotted a firelight and moved to investigate. I neared the gathering and heard a deep-throated chanting. Drawing ever closer I watched a group of twelve or so cultists dancing perversely around the fire, praying to what foul demon I have no idea. With a thrill of fear I realized I was witnessing the legendary Order of the Crimson Hand in their depraved worship. I blanched with horror as I saw in the flickering light a silhouette of a headless horseman watching the orgy!
I infiltrated back into the main building and immediately sought out the famed Inspector Cooke. I found him seated alone in the chapel, and he turned when I entered. I could see from his slowed movement that he yet carried the wound I had given him. My hand went to my pistols, and I waited for him to make the first move.
"You!" he said.
"I am here to speak to you, not fight you," I replied.
At that, his eyes dropped for a moment, and I could see suddenly that behind the hard reputation was a man. He sat back down and motioned me to a seat opposite him.
"I...I dreamed of you," he whispered.
"It was no dream," I said, pointing to his wounded side.
He looked down for a moment and then locked eyes with me. I could see he was at a loss for words.
"I will tell you, Inspector, that I hold no ill will toward you. I will tell you that I believe our confrontation was the devilish work of the horseman who haunts this place."
"I had the same thought," he said. "I am not one to excuse a crime, however...not even my own."
I waited for him to continue, knowing that he had to reckon his world with our present reality.
"You are an outlaw," he said. "Your image decorates warrants from here to Boston."
Still I said nothing.
"I deal a lot with evil men, sir," he continued. "I have hunted them all my life and sent not a few of them to the gibbet. I have looked into their eyes and seen some devote their last minutes to repentance and others to godless defiance."
He suddenly seemed old and bent to me.
"I have seen too much evil in my time," he grunted. "But I don't see that in you. Tell me now what your intentions are."
"I hunt the horseman that is at the bottom of all this mayhem."
"Then you will swear to me that you are not in league with it?"
"I swear it."
"But what of your connection with Mayor Carver? What do you know of him? Of his whereabouts?"
"I know nothing of him," I replied. "My only connection to him is the money bag he placed in my hands, allegedly to help him solve the murders that plague this place. You more than anyone would know that our elected officials sometimes are duplicitous. The most evil among us often hide in plain sight."
"Still, you are a robber, a common highwayman."
"I won't waste your time justifying myself, Inspector. Rich men pay you to strengthen their grip on the poor, wretched taxpayers. I am your counterpart, lending my hand to those who cannot fight for themselves."
"The law is the law," he growled. "Without law we are animals."
"You serve the law...their law. I serve justice."
He sniffed with contempt.
"We are not going to work peace between our two worlds tonight, Inspector," I said. "But I think you know that there is something far more urgent for us to attend to."
He nodded slowly.
"A truce then," he said.
"I will forego my official duties in regards to you for the time being," he said. "But I must have your word in return that you will lay off your lawlessness while we tend to this matter."
I smiled. How I would relish taking this inspector from Boston to visit the wretched slums and ruined housemaids that wallow in despair under his law! But with the image of the horseman still in my mind and the nauseating chanting of the Order in my ears, I held out my hand to this policeman. He took it.
"To business, then," I said. I handed him the seafarer's lantern that I had procured in Tidewater. He examined it and then looked at me.
"It's fairly bought, not stolen," I laughed. "I thought you could make use of it."
He laughed suddenly, and I thought for a moment that this was a man who would have been more suited to the cloth than the shackle. He reached into his cloak and produced a vial.
"Take this," he said. "It is filled with water blessed by the abbot of this place."
I took it, and the inspector and I spent the rest of the evening in the company of Sophie, to whom I had written. The three of us plotted our strategy deep into the night. At dawn the three of us knelt down in prayer together, and I followed the inspector in swearing an oath to destroy the horseman of Shadowbrook. Afterward, I convinced the abby to entrust the Sacred Chalice to me. As I drank the communion wine from it, I could feel the virtue flowing from it, strengthening us to turn back the evil plans of our foe.
Before dawn the next morning, I lay awake in my bed staring at the Chalice that lay on my table. I could feel it pulsing, and a rising sense of urgency coursed in my veins. I grabbed the sacred cup and cradled it to my chest as I knelt in a desperate prayer. I felt that a dark, inconceivably strong hand was descending upon this community to crush it in its merciless grip, but I prayed to God that He would ward off the blow. I don't know how long I wrestled in fervent supplication, but when I looked up, the Chalice was no longer in my hands. I guessed that I had been given a sufficient measure of Heaven's virtue, and that it had been enough for the moment.
I got up with a new purpose in my heart to finish this war against Hell's agent. Leaving some coin on my table, I fled the monastery as the sun was coming up, and made my way to the Hanbrook Manor, stopping only long enough to push some money into the hands of three monks. I told them to ride for their lives and to find the inspector, the professor, and Argot Blackwell, and to tell them to come to the Hanbrook Mansion with all the speed they could muster!
At mid-day the Scarlet Shadow reached the Hanbrook Manor and warned the Lord that the horseman was somewhere within his own home. Lord Hanbrook snapped into action, clearing the main buildings of his staff and entrusting the Lady to the care of the butler, Pemberton. Even as this was done, an unnatural gloom engulfed the grounds, as if night were already falling.
Up from Shadowbrook galloped Argot Blackwell and Professor Harlow Morgan, each with a grim look in their eyes. Behind them came Reverend Harding, gripping a crucifix. Inspector Cooke and Sophie emerged from the fields near the Amberson farm. The little band of heroes had surrounded the grounds.
Suddenly the horseman appeared! Headless, yet the sound of a deathless laugh echoed and caused the heroes' steeds to stamp nervously. Resigning themselves to their fates, the heroes advanced.
The horseman rode forward, and behind him the depraved Magistrate Kroft and Mayor Carver came on, followed by Dr. Manning and the Harbormaster. The Shadow raced forward and shot both Carver and Kroft, killing them. The dying Carver shouted a curse down on Shadowbrook, but Sophie screamed "I think not!", and the heroes felt strengthened. Magistrate Kroft taunted her, warning her that she would die just as the cursed widow Jessica had paid with her life. At that moment, Harlow Morgan rode forward and produced the now revived widow! Kroft gasped his last, gurgling breath in an agony of fear.
The horseman flew at the Scarlet Shadow, brandishing a shining sword, but Delani, the housemaid, stepped in its path and paid with her life.
Inspector Cooke attacked the horseman, wounding it slightly, and it backhanded him, drawing blood.
Harlow Morgan and Reverend Harding killed the harbormaster but made little headway against the horseman. The villain killed them both.
Argot Blackwell and Lord Hanbrook rode forward, filled with vengeance, and blasted the horseman, knocking it from its saddle and wounding it grievously. The horseman's blade wounded Argot.
The Shadow struck again, shooting three shots into the specter. The horseman rose up and pummeled him, almost knocking him out.
The inspector tackled the creature and knifed it, wounding it again. Cooke yelped as the horseman found its mark again.
Argot and Hanbrook attacked again, slamming the undead figure to the ground, but Argot never moved again.
The Shadow fired his pistols, again tearing into the screaming apparition, and when it attacked him, he flung the weathered skull at it, deflecting the creature's blade.
Inspector Cooke rose up behind the creature and announced its doom, plunging his dagger into its neck. It whipped about, knocking the half-dead policeman to the ground and then expired with a shriek. Dr. Manning, observing the demise of the demon he worshipped, put a pistol to his own head and pulled the trigger.
The horror of Shadowbrook was gone. Clinging to life, Cooke and the Scarlet Shadow limped back toward town with Lord Hanbrook and Sophie.
- Last edited Sun Jan 29, 2017 12:18 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:55 pm
Great read. AToE is our recent purchase, we had a chance to play it once with my wife on competitive mode, basic rules. Well, I have to say we were a bit disappointed, felt way too easy! Later I tried it solo with just 1 character, cooperative shadow track & advanced mystery chart from the expansion and I've been obliterated.
I'm looking forward to our next play, want to play it again with my wife, competitive mode, advanced rules, cooperative shadow track and basic mystery phase chart (plus showdown chart I think, so the main fight feels more interesting).
Do you have any advices on how to play it with just 2 people to have a tense, exciting and difficult game?
I play mostly solitaire, but I think that with two, I would recommend the co-op mode with each player playing two investigators.
I think the theme is what makes this game so great, so I'd recommend that after you choose characters, you read their back-stories aloud, including the story behind the Villain.
If you really want to get into the mood of the game, watch "Sleepy Hollow" with Johnny Depp. You'll find all the elements of the game in the movie.
Well that was a fantastic story! Thanks for the entertaining read, Robert. It was fun pulling the mechanical details out of the narrative.
Out of curiosity, were the Heroes and Villain chosen or random? I like to choose the Villain, but randomly pick my Heroes.
Glad you liked it! I picked the heroes and villain randomly. It's always fun to see what strange combinations might come up. I liked the ones I picked, because I thought there would be good dramatic tension between Inspector Cooke and the Scarlet Shadow.
Excellent and atmospheric write-up. Really liked the dialogue and language used.
Thanks, Martin! AToE brings out the frustrated writer in me!